How to Speak so Boomers will Listen

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In my last blog (see previous post: How to Speak So Each Generation Will Listen), I discussed the Traditionalists, the generation that was born between 1924-1945. In this blog, I’m going to discuss what events shaped the Baby Boomer psyche and what key words to use when talking with them. As a reminder:

Who are the four generations?

Traditionalists: Born between 1924-1945
Baby Boomers: Born between 1946-1964
Generation X: Born between 1965-1980
Generation Y: Born between 1981-2000

Each of these generations was influenced by certain events that shaped their psyche during their formative years. The formative years tend to take place 10-20 years after a person was born, so let’s look at the events that shaped each generation during their formative years.

Baby Boomers
Born between 1946-1964
Formative years between approx. 1957-1974

One of the dominant events that shaped this generation was the assassination of JKF, MLK and Robert Kennedy; every Boomer remembers where s/he was when JFK was shot. (Do you? If not, you’re likely Gen X or Gen Y!) The Vietnam War also had a huge impact on Boomers. From these dramatic events, they saw that they had to band together so their voices could be heard and changes could be made. They learned that they could indeed change the world if they collaborated as a whole.

Details are important to Boomers, since they saw that legislative details made the difference in stopping the Vietnam War and starting the civil rights movement. The man landing on the moon also impacted this generation; it showed them that anything was possible and the sky literally was the limit. On that momentous day, they learned that nothing was impossible for a Boomer!

Free love was a big influence during this era. This allowed Boomers to explore themselves, as well as the world; they are still a dominant force in the travel industry. Finally, they are also the first generation where a majority went to college and climbed up the corporate ladder; consequently they are time stressed as they struggle to manage 60-hour workweeks.

As a result of these events, Boomers tend to be idealistic, politically correct, consensus-driven and cause-driven. They also tend to break the rules and truly want to change the world for the better.

Now that you understand which events shaped this generation, and how Boomers view the world, how can you best connect with them? You use key words that resonate with them. When you do this, they then feel understood and are willing to listen to you. You build rapport, so they will engage with you more willingly. If you continue to use their key words, you will have an effective conversation with them, simply by using their own language.

Key Words for Boomers

* Make a difference
* Consensus/team
* Experiment/try new things
* “Imagine if…”
* Save time
* Features and benefits

So if you’re trying to convince a Boomer to launch a new website, you would say something like “The team feels that launching this website will make a big difference to the success of our company. We’ve tried some new features; the BB widget will save our employees 2 hours/week. Imagine what would happen if we all had an extra 2 hours in our day. It’s a win-win for everyone!”

You wouldn’t use the same language when trying to convince a Gen Y, Gen X or Traditionalist to launch a new website. They have their own key words that resonate best with them. Yet using the Boomer key words, and understanding the Boomer psyche, will help you bridge the cultural gap.

Remember, you will not succeed when trying to change a generational perspective. You will only succeed when tailoring your pitch to each generation. In other words, speak their language. When you do this, they feel more connected to you and more willing to answer your questions. This then helps you overcome their objections and move forward.

My next two blogs will cover the key words to use for Gen X and Gen Y. Until then, practice your Boomer language and let me know how it goes!

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